So let me get this straight, in Monopoly if you give one player more money to start out it’s “unfair” but if you do it in real life it’s “capitalism”?
You know what, I’m going to tell you guys a story.
In my Sociology class a few semesters ago, our prof had us break off into groups and, much to our naive joy, began distributing Monopoly boards! We had no idea what was going on but yay! Games! Of course, once our group, and a number of others, got the board we began to work at setting up and distributing the money…
until suddenly our prof told us to put the money down and pick up the dice.
“Roll the dice and sort yourselves from highest to lowest,” our teacher commanded. "Now, the highest number is the upper class. The next one is upper middle class. The next two or three are middle class. The last person is in poverty.“
Well, as the person who rolled a two this was startling and not wholly welcome news.
From that point the game changed entirely. We had to hand out the money so that the “upper class” had this fucking mountain, and then less for upper middle, even less for middle, and I didn’t get any triple digit bills. We would all collect different amounts from passing go as well.
The biggest change though? Going to jail. Upper class didn’t. Period. Upper middle class could go but they only had to stay for one turn or they could immediately pay their way out. Middle class had some pretty easy guidelines for when they could pay to get out. As lower class, it was really easy for me to wind up in jail and REALLY hard to get out. But since I was working with so little money when everyone else had so much I was in jail all the time because there was no “game over”. If I couldn’t pay I had to go to jail for a certain period of time. I had to take out loans with interest I could never pay back just to get out only to wind up back in it again, rolling dice turn after turn hoping to be able to get out.
It was simultaneously the most enlightening and most awful game I had ever played. I was bored and frustrated and a little terrified about it all. And it wasn’t only me. I would never win, I sort of accepted this, but it was amazing how the middle classes reacted as well. They were stressed. Because they were always that close to either being able to one-up the upper class or from crashing into poverty with me. They had to fight constantly just to stay in the middle.
(I should also mention that the upper class player in one group felt so bad for the lower income players that they ended up overhauling their entire game and creating a “socialist” society instead. I’m not sure how our teacher felt about that one.)
Worth stressing this is entirely in the spirit of the original designer’s aims for Monopoly.
Monopoly’s original form of The Landlord Game which was explicitly designed to teach people about the unfairness of rent systems. To quote from the wikipedia entry, just as it’s the easiest source to hand…Magie designed the game to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences”. She based the game on the economic principles of Georgism, a system proposed byHenry George, with the object of demonstrating how rents enrich property owners and impoverish tenants. She knew that some people could find it hard to understand why this happened and what might be done about it, and she thought that if Georgist ideas were put into the concrete form of a game, they might be easier to demonstrate.
When the usual suspects start making “don’t bring politics into games” noises, I roll my eyes pretty hard. They have no idea of the history of the form.